The Barty Party – for a truly nice person

HEAD’s top female racket ambassador on top of the world

In an individual sport that is as selfish as tennis is, there is a beacon of light that shines through – Ashleigh Barty, the women’s world No 1, a player as humble and down to earth as a top-level athlete could possibly be.

In Australia, a kind and good person is often referred to as “the salt of the earth” – it’s a tag that applies easily to Barty. There is no record of anyone saying a bad word about the 25-year-old Queenslander, who will forever remember the afternoon of Saturday 10 July 2021.

On the hallowed and most revered tennis court in the world, in front of 15,000 fans who rose in unison with deafening applause, Ash Barty realised a dream and created a slice of history. She had defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 and Wimbledon was hers.

With both arms stretched to the limit, she raised the gleaming silver gilt Venus Rosewater Salver high above the Centre Court, and while there was no ray of natural sunshine striking the moment on an overcast day, Barty’s beaming face made up for it in spades.

“It was incredible. It was just almost a moment of relief, a moment of pure excitement. It was something that I'd never, never knew if I would feel. I think being able to have an opportunity to play in a final here at Wimbledon is incredible,” Barty had said after her semi-final victory over the former champion Angelique Kerber.

“That match was a great level, the best level I’ve played in quite some time. I think being able to challenge myself against a champion like her, it was just nice to play a really good level throughout the whole match. I fought and scrapped when I had to, controlled the ball when I had to. But being able to have that feeling on the last point was amazing.”

Ash’s victory is historical in the annals of Australian tennis but also for this great sport. She is only the third Australian woman in the open era to win Wimbledon, joining Margaret Court and her mentor, friend and indigenous ‘sister’ Evonne Goolagong.

The omens for this Wimbledon began to fall into place even before the first ball was hit. The dress she wore during the fortnight, casually referred to as “the scallop dress”, was an acknowledgment to what Evonne wore when she won her first Wimbledon in 1971. And she even got a proud and delighted approval from the legendary star.

This year was the 50th anniversary of that victory. In the quarterfinals, Barty played Ajla Tomljanovic; the last time two Australian women played one another at Wimbledon was 1980 when Evonne Goolagong Cawley defeated Wendy Turnbull. That year was the last time an Aussie woman made the Wimbledon final … and went on to win. It was Evonne’s second  Wimbledon title.

Ash channelled all that, but she also admitted that it took a long time to say out loud that she really wanted to win Wimbledon.

“It takes a lot to make a statement like that, to say this is what I want to do,” her coach since 2016 Craig Tyzzer said. “I think it’s always been on her mind. It's probably on every tennis player’s mind that this is the tournament they want to win.But to come out and say it is a big step.

“Ash has been the sort of person who will put it on the line. She’ll do her best. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn't work out, but she’s not afraid to try. If you get it wrong, you get it wrong. If you try and fail, that’s still OK.”

Barty’s favourite mantra is “Your greatest growth comes from your darkest times.” It’s one she recites in her mind and applies particularly to Wimbledon. “Honestly,  wasn't sure if it would ever happen,” she said. “I think you have to keep putting yourself in the position.

“Wimbledon for me has been an amazing place of learning. Ten years ago, I came here for the first time as a junior and learned a lot in that week. Probably 2018, 2019 was some of my toughest weeks playing. To come away with losses in those two tournaments, I learned a hell of a lot from those.

“I think that’s why this tournament has been so important to me. I’ve learned so much with all my experiences – the good, bad, everything in between I’ve been able to learn from.

“Just to be able to keep chipping away, keep putting yourself out there, let yourself be vulnerable, just be yourself, knowing that everything that comes with that is an opportunity to learn. I think that's been a massive one for us this fortnight.”

With her Wimbledon title, Ash Barty has proven once again that nice people do finish first.